White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has revived his alter-ego “Ron Vara” to bolster his case that the US should proceed with a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
According to the Times, Navarro supplemented his argument for the tariffs in a memo purportedly sent from an email address belonging to “Ron Vara” – an anagram of his own name Navarro has previously acknowledged quoting as an “inside joke” in his books.
“Much debate going on,” said an email purportedly from Vara highlighting commentary in favor of more tariffs on China, the paper reported. “Here’s one side that has not been in focus. Thoughts?”
Navarro confirmed the authenticity of the memo to the Times, but it remains unclear how widely it was distributed.
In a statement provided to CNN in October, Navarro admitted to inventing the character of Ron Vara, describing it as a “whimsical device and pen name,” purely for “entertainment value.” He added that it was “refreshing that somebody finally figured out an inside joke that has been hiding in plain sight for years.”
The Vara alias is quoted in at least six of Navarro’s books, including in “The Coming China Wars” from 2008.
Navarro wrote that Vara was a captain in a reserve unit during the Gulf War as well as a doctoral student in economics at Harvard University in the US. He also wrote that Vara “made a very large fortune making the very best out of very bad situations.”
Vara’s true identity was revealed by Australian academic Tessa Morris-Suzuki, a professor emeritus of Japanese history at the Australian National University. She previously told CNN that she tried to find Vara after being asked to write an article on anti-China rhetoric for a local politics and foreign affairs blog.
“I just looked him up online, assuming he might be some businessman or other, and then he wasn’t there. The more I looked, the more I thought this was really strange,” she said.
CNN”s Christine Romans contributed to this report.